National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Chairperson Ms Thandi Modise has told a special sitting of the Chamber of Deputies, one of the two Houses of the Parliament of the Republic of Chile, that it was the honesty, frankness, faithfulness and exemplary nature of the first democratic President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, that made him worthy of celebration and emulation by the world.
Ms Modise was delivering a keynote address, yesterday, on the invitation of the Chilean Parliament, a rare honour accorded to foreign dignitaries, in commemoration of Madiba’s centenary birthday.
“We celebrate him because he put the people first. He taught us that it was right and noble to suppress the “self”, in order to achieve with others, the greater good,” said the NCOP Chairperson, as she took Members of Parliament (deputies) through her reflections on the life and times of Madiba.
Ms Modise thanked the Chamber of Deputies and its Vice President, Mr Jaime Mulet, for bestowing on her the decoration of the Chamber of Deputies of Chile. This is a public recognition awarded to the highest authorities by virtue of the positions they represent and Chileans and foreigners for their distinguished service.
Ms Modise stressed: “We do not take lightly the honour you have bestowed on us, as our sister parliament, on behalf of the people of Chile, to share this great occasion with you. This invitation, this celebration, underscores the great respect and friendship, the shared determination and purpose between our two nations – driven by a common history. We appreciate that you host us today as you consider the significance of Mandela. This is a demonstration of your commitment to establish a just, peaceful, prosperous and inclusive world for which gave us so much,” she told the packed special sitting.
The NCOP Chairperson reminded the Chilean Parliamentarians that Madiba’s pursuit of the pursuit of that ideal of a democratic and free society, in which people live together in harmony and with equal opportunities, took various forms, including through the pursuit of international friendships. Madiba, she said, was always conscious that, through the manifestation of international bonds, such as the one that our country enjoys with this glorious nation of Chile, he owed his existence also to the world community.
“There are special ties that bind South Africa and Chile, though. So, today is, particularly, a time of great joy for us. But it is also a time tinged with poignancy – when we remember the bitter struggles we both had to fight to end the jackboot brutality of former regimes and begin to build societies founded on freedom, human rights and democratic government,” the NCOP Chairperson pointed out.
Since both South Africa and Chile became democracies, cooperative relations between them have been strengthening. There are bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding and regular visits between the two governments on specific issues.
In 2014, Chile’s President, Ms Michelle Bachelet, during her state visit to South Africa, announced the establishment of the Republic of Chile-Nelson Mandela Scholarship Programme, through which the Government of Chile would receive South African professionals to pursue postgraduate studies at universities in Chile.
The Joint Trade and Investment Commission, led by the trade departments of our two countries, spearhead economic relations. There are close to 27 South African companies having a presence in Chile – in, for example, mining; engineering; construction; food; airfreight; transport; industrial equipment for health, agriculture and renewable energy industry; cosmetics; and the casino and hospitality sectors.
Said Ms Modise: “Beyond our reminiscences of Madiba, to really honour him, we should be exploring how to pursue the goal of a just world to which he devoted his life. How do we live out the values, which guided his life and made it possible to forgive – but not forget – the heinous deeds visited on him and the millions of other South Africans and oppressed people throughout the world? It starts with each one of us, in our homes, in the areas where we live.”
Before her historic address to the Chilean legislators, the NCOP Chairperson addressed the launch ceremony of the Nelson Mandela Exhibition at the precincts of the Parliament of Chile. Ms Modise also visited the Mandela Memorial, which was erected by the government of Chile in Santiago in honour of the revered global icon.